I ached, but I told myself it wasn’t too bad. I winced. Okay, too bad. I had to stop thinking about it. I forced myself to focus on the whiny nasally voice of precinct head Claudius, and repeated every word over in my head.
“If there isn’t something done to stop them they’ll run right over us. As long as the barbarians are on the borders making threats to outlying towns, building schools,” his voice broke as he sputtered on the word, “to civilize us,” he was breathing hard from sheer revulsion. This was not a subject to divert my thoughts. I shifted my attention to the pear blossoms, the insects chasing the delectable notes floating through the air, lost myself for a few indefinable moments between the scent of the sun and the flowers. When someone jerked on my sleeve, I blinked blearily at the boy, sandy haired, destined to be something someday, but I couldn’t remember what.
“Head Precept requests your presence lady,” he said nervously. Funny, I couldn’t remember him being nervous before.
I bowed to the others; there were more than I remembered, and I followed him down the wide steps, marble, pale, golden veins sparkling under the sun. The city was beautiful; it struck me, as it did every time. I forced myself to move more quickly after the boy who was nearly jogging down the path beneath the trees, studded with majestic statuary, well, now crumbling, but formerly majestic. The smell of rich hyacinths, slowed me down, and I watched the boy’s form retreat as I held back.
I was crouched in front of a flower, the hue particularly striking, a blue that fell straight from the sky, when a shadow threw the blue in darkness.
I knew at once who it was, the High Precept, he let off a smell like power that had burnt a long time and was coming near its end.
“Haedra,” the voice was still power and I stood so that I could perform my obeisance properly.
“How may I serve the people?” my voice came out thin, like a note played on a reed pipe improperly cured. I frowned and was going to ask again, but he started walking after grasping my arm firmly in his hand to keep up my pace.
“The people call you as host to the viceroy of Barbaras. It’s a high honor, and I know you must be wondering why such glory should be bestowed to the humble house of Perr.” His voice stopped at the same time my feet did. I didn’t mean to, it was a reflex for me to glare into his eyes while I bared my teeth at him. He studied me, and then nodded slightly. “I see you understand the honor.”
Oh yes. I understood perfectly what it meant, but I didn’t see why me. “Surely there are more worthy…” I bit my lip to keep it from trembling along with my voice. “I have served the people well in my time, surely…” Couldn’t I finish a sentence? “There must be someone else.” There. Not much I could do about the desperation in my voice.
“Haedra of Perr, who else shall I ask? You are the only soul with experience. The only others I could ask, the Perr elders…”
I didn’t mean to cut him off, but it was just as well. “I’m the last of my line for a reason. If it weren’t so devastating for my family to serve then there would be others of us. You ask too much.”
“I suppose I could take him with me to the temple, to stay in the heart of the city,”
“He could stay by himself in one of the crumbling manse along the river. Hopefully it would collapse on him as he slept.” My voice was loud this time, too loud, and bitter. The high precept looked at me with eyes that glowed a blue green that matched mine.
“Haedra, you are the best chance.” His voice was gentle, and for some reason I thought of all the other daughters of the city, as enticing and gentle as his voice. Who could resist those pearly pointed teeth, and soft pointed ears, the wrists, so thin and breakable? I glanced down at my own wrists, covered in my long sleeves the color of a robin’s egg. Unseen but not unfelt. The scars would never completely fade, the memory of the hands, made my eyes fill with tears.
“Then there is no chance.” I heard my voice, only a whisper, but it was a whisper of defeat. If I was what stood between my people and the barbarians, so be it. I would stand as well as I could.
More to come of this stunning tale. Have a great Monday!